The cultural heritage of those that tend the land and call it home—from ranchers to Indigenous Peoples to ejidos—is closely tied to the fate of grasslands. Rural communities and economies depend on healthy grasslands and the services they provide which include aquifer recharge, productive rangelands, outdoor recreation and more. Despite their importance, the plight of grasslands has been largely overlooked, but a new initiative has launched which aims to chart a better future for this precious resource.
The Chihuahuan Desert population of Northern Aplomado Falcon shrunk dramatically a century ago and was lost from the southwestern U.S. A tiny population survived in Mexico, but its continued survival is tenuous due to habitat loss and other factors. A tri-national partnership is monitoring this population’s breeding success and conducting a demographic study that includes satellite telemetry of juvenile falcons. What we are learning is guiding conservation and helping gain support from private landowners on the ground. The recent appearance of a young male falcon in New Mexico fosters hope that the Northern Aplomado Falcon might even be able to someday recolonize the Southwestern U.S.
Little is known about grassland birds during migration. Automated radio telemetry through the Motus Wildlife Tracking System can help us understand bird movement during this part of their life cycle. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is implementing a three-phase, multiyear project to expand the Motus network into the Great Plains and Chihuahuan Desert, installing receiving stations along avian flyways to capture vital data and fill knowledge gaps.
Grassland bird populations are declining and the majority of species are understudied on their wintering grounds. In the winter of 2020, we implemented a regional monitoring program in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas to establish baseline population estimates of grassland birds. We surveyed on a number of expansive cattle ranches, each exhibiting fascinating ecological and management histories. Through the implementation of this program, we can share that collaboration between ranching operations and grassland bird conservation is mutually beneficial.
The Sprague’s Pipit is a charismatic songbird of North American grasslands. If you’ve ever wandered the Northern Great Plains in summer, you’ve probably heard their sweet song, and maybe even seen their high-altitude aerial displays which can last for hours. One of many fast-declining grassland bird species, we’re urgently working to learn more about the life cycle of the Sprague’s Pipit so that its song can continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.
Nineteen Mennonite students from Cuauhtémoc recently joined us in the field and experienced a day in the life of bird biologists. Representing a vital piece of the conservation puzzle in Chihuahua, their visit opens new pathways for awareness, conversation and collaboration to help grassland birds on Mexico’s wintering grounds.
After several weeks of intensive nest searching and observation, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies has confirmed that Baird’s Sparrows are actively breeding at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area—the first time the species has been documented reproducing in the State of Colorado. This remarkable discovery marks an exciting milestone in an already-eventful 2018 summer field season.
The grasslands of the Chihuahuan desert provide important overwintering habitat for over 90% of the migratory grassland species in western North America. Recently, our team joined partners and private landowners on a scenic tour through northern Mexico to visit some of Sustainable Grazing Network ranches that are working to conserve and restore grassland habitat for the benefit of people and birds.
After several decades of steep declines, Aplomado Falcon populations are slowly rising again in the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico, thanks to the efforts of our local partners, ranchers and biologists who are working hard to improve habitat, providing nesting locations, and closely monitor the progress of this threatened species.
2018 marks our 30th Anniversary, and we’re celebrating! In the coming months, we’ll reminisce about the migratory milestones and positive impacts that our organization has made through the years, as well as look to the future. We hope you enjoy this timeline featuring just a handful of the many accomplishments made possible by our supporters, partners, collaborators and staff.